Under the Magnolia Tree has a new look! Thank you to my cousin, Grey Von Cannon, for designing my cool logo. She is an artist and jewelry designer living in Durham, NC. Visit her webpage at greyvoncannon.com
I have certain travel memories that stand out as ones I cherish. Seeing the enormity of the Grand Canyon for the first time, digging up fossils in the high desert of Wyoming, and taking a bike tour of Versailles with my son are just a few.
On this trip to Brazil, the memories that stand out are the ones in which I felt God’s presence as close as my hand.
The first happened when our group of thirty-five women finally made it to the Splendor, the boat that would be our home for five days. After almost two days of flights (longer for some), we finally pulled up to the docking site. We climbed down from the bus which had brought us from the airport in Manaus and began to walk single file down a long flight of steps.
That’s when we heard the music and shouting. The Justice & Mercy staff were spread out along the top and bottom decks of the boat, cheering, blasting music, and welcoming us aboard.
The months of planning, shopping, praying, discussing, emailing, and texting had finally come to a culmination – and we were at the Amazon! I started crying and grinning all at the same time. It felt surreal. I have a video of myself staggering down the steps, exhausted and exhilarated. I will always remember the pure joy of that moment, and the thankfulness I felt for the opportunity to be there.
Late that same night, I had quiet moment with God. I think we all struggled to sleep in the unfamiliar hammocks that were so close to each other that we knocked the woman next to us if we turned over. When my leg cramped, I slipped out of the hammock as quietly as I could without waking my neighbors and walked around in my bare feet, working out the cramp.
We had left our original dock and were pulled up by the side of a tributary, miles away from any signs of civilization. The night was still and clear and the moon hung in the sky, its golden light illuminating the water. I leaned against the railing to stretch my calf and stopped to marvel. As the rest of the boat slept, I felt a profound sense of peace and a palpable sense of God’s presence. I will always remember the calm of that first night.
I could share many other special moments, but I will always remember one from our third day. We had gathered for our morning worship and study time on the top deck of the boat. As Kelly Minter began to teach, the boat started up, and we were soon moving down the river, the wind blowing in our hair.
Riding down the river in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest under a clear blue sky and being taught by Kelly Minter was pretty awesome. Kelly began teaching on the Beatitudes in Matthew 6 and unwrapped the familiar verses about not worrying. She used the jungle pastors who rely on God for their every meal as an example. Just as she got to verse 33— “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”—we came into the larger Negro River. After being in the smaller tributaries, the water suddenly stretched out endlessly on every side, as wide as the ocean. The boat slowed and Kelly said, “God’s kingdom is so broad and vast, you don’t want to miss it.”
My heart stopped because God’s vastness was literally all around us. It was the ultimate object lesson, and I was hit over the head with “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Eph. 3:18). That moment is implanted in my heart!
I later asked Kelly if she had coordinated that moment with the boat captain and she laughed. “There’s no way we could work that out!”
I found during my trip to the Amazon that the world is not as big as I thought and that God’s love is much more vast, encompassing, and intimate than I had ever imagined.
If you missed my first post on the Amazon, you can find it here.
Next time: What I left behind in the Amazon